Women’s Only Avalanche Clinic at Squaw Valley

S.A.F.E.A.S. (Skiers Advocating and Fostering Education for Avalanche and Snow Safety)

On December 8, Squaw Valley skiers will host a women's-only avalanche clinic. We caught up with professional skier Elyse Saugstad to get the low-down on the event.

What is the event all about?
The event is an intro to avalanche safety with classroom and on-snow training. It also includes morning yoga, a wine social the night before, and an après party with a raffle.

Who’s involved?
The course is taught by Squaw Valley’s own avalanche forecaster, Alaska heli-ski guide, and AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) Avalanche Instructor Lel Tone, hosted by ski professionals Michelle Parker, Jackie Paaso, Ingrid Backstrom, and me. Sherry McConkey is teaching yoga.

What type of skiers should go an event like this?
Women, ages 14 and older who are interested in snow and avalanche safety in and out of bounds and who enjoy a good time for a good cause. Participants are asked to provide their own avalanche beacon, shovel, probe, and backpack (so this sort of helps insinuate this is an event for an advanced skier, but their level of backcountry knowledge can be minimal).

Why is it important to have backcountry knowledge?
Adventuring in the mountains and playing in the snow is one of the most fun things a human can do. However, being educated and aware of the potential dangers that lie in the backcountry are a necessity before initiating travel and play. Our goal of the clinic is to encourage women to seek out more knowledge so they can play safe in the mountains.

The event sold out. What can people do that didn’t get in but want to learn more about backcountry safety? There are a plenty of avalanche awareness and snow safety classes organized and taught in our surrounding communities to varying degrees of formality. A good start is to research online through websites such as AIARE’s. Ski Resorts often offer avie classes and rescue/transceiver training, like Squaw Valley. Besides that, we plan to make this an annual event and look forward to putting this on again next year.